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MMoCA | Winter Matinee: “The Cry of Jazz” (1959) & “Sapphire” (1959)
December 4, 2022 @ 12:00 pm - 2:30 pm
As part of the Art & Gift Fair on Sunday, December 4, MMoCA Cinema will present two films that are included on Faisal Abdu’Allah’s recommendation list as part of his Dark Matter exhibition.
Both films were completed in 1959, and each has a distinct take on the issue of race relations of the time. One was directed by an African-American filmmaker working independently in Chicago, the other by a white filmmaker working within the mainstream film industry in the United Kingdom.
Admission is free, so you can watch one or both films before or after shopping at the Art & Gift Fair.
The Cry of Jazz | Edward O. Bland | USA | 1959 | 34 minutes
Musician and composer Edward O. Bland completed only one film, The Cry of Jazz, but scholar Chuck Kleinhans describes it as “a remarkable and unique film that demonstrates the imaginative power of black intellectuals and artists in the Civil Rights Era . . . the film uses dramatic dialogue, direct address argumentation, realist documentary illustration, an innovative music soundtrack, and essayistic construction to argue for jazz music as an expression of the situation of black Americans. Seeing jazz as both empowering and limiting, the film is an acute and even painful statement of its political, social, cultural, and artistic moment.” The film provoked controversy with its thesis that “jazz was dead,” but The Observer‘s Kenneth Tynan wrote, “it is the first film in which the American Negro has issued a direct challenge to the white, claiming not merely equality but superiority.”
The musicians performing in the film include Le Sun Ra & his Arkestra, which features John Gilmour, Julian Priester, and Marshall Allen. The Cry of Jazz was inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2010.
Sapphire | Basil Dearden | UK | 1959 | 93 minutes
A young woman is found dead in a public park. Police Superintendent Robert Hazard (Nigel Patrick) discovers that her murder may have been racially motivated. Basil Dearden’s Sapphire is both a solid police procedural as well as an exploration of race and class in England in the 1950s. The film is notable for its distinct color cinematography and location shooting in London’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods, like Notting Hill, not often seen in mainstream films at the time.